On a mission to sustain themselves purely on food waste (expired or thrown out foods), Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer set themselves on a six month journey raiding dumpsters and filming their lives in Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. Playing now at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Just Eat It is a Canadian documentary bringing awareness to the often-ignored issue of the waste that plagues our food system.
Throughout the film, we are introduced to several food experts, including Dana Gunders, Project Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, California. Gunders presents the harrowing statistic that the average person wastes 25% of the food that they buy, much like “dropping a bag of groceries in the parking lot and not bothering to pick it up.” Grant and Jen meanwhile, highlight some anecdotal but relevant reasons as to why they waste food, such as being “not in the mood for leftovers” when take-out sushi is so easily accessible.
Further up in the supply chain, we see farmers discarding sometimes more than half their yield due to “imperfections”. The film points out that consumers are unwilling to buy produce that are misshapen or blemished and hence, supermarkets are unwilling to buy them. Both supermarkets and consumers are often misinformed and overly strict about “best before” dates and its variants. The film great job illustrating food waste as a symptom of a wealthy society in which we can choose to waste food because we can afford it.
As Grant and Jen show from their “dumpster dives”, the film is proof that there is no shortage of edible food to be found in the dumpsters of warehouses and supermarkets. In watching the film, we can’t help but feel happy for the couple that they are able to meet their basic dietary needs but at the same time, it is also disheartening to know that there is so much good food condemned as waste. On the other hand, the film highlights some innovative ways that people and communities are using food that would otherwise go to waste.
While informative, Just Eat It is also visually interesting. Filmed mostly in Vancouver, B.C. and surrounding areas, the film often juxtaposes agricultural lands alongside the highly manufactured aisles of local supermarkets stressing their inter-connectivity. Dumpsters are exposed as bottomless pools of packaged goods to both pity and marvel at. At its heart, not only is Just Eat It a worthy primer on the issue of food waste, it is a light-hearted yet earnest vignette into the lives a middle class couple wanting to learn more about the world around them.
For future screenings of Just Eat It, see locations and times at http://www.foodwastemovie.com/screenings.